• August 18, 2019

Homeless encampment near downtown - Odessa American: Home

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Homeless encampment near downtown

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Posted: Tuesday, August 13, 2019 3:43 pm

Just a few blocks from downtown, beside the Ector County Republican Party Headquarters, is the scattered remains of a homeless camp a few individuals were making their home in Odessa.

Alma Bird, who works at the headquarters, said they had been camped out for about a week, about five of them at most, before she had Joe Commander, an investigator for the Ector County District Attorney, shoo them away. But many remnants of their camp are left behind.

What’s left there now consists of a sleeping bag, an old radio cassette player, an open suitcase with tossed clothing and a tie, several Gatorade bottles, laundry detergent, throw pillows and a notebook. The notebook contains one written page, a bucket list, listing nine goals—one being to “hike the Appalachian Trail (naked)” and others such as backpacking through Europe and adopting a bull mastiff.

The group had gone away last week, but Bird said she saw a suitcase propped up against their A/C unit Monday, but it’s already gone. They managed to make some comforts at the camp. Bird said they had an oscillating fan plugged in and a clothesline hung up to dry their clothes.

“They’re building that high-dollar Marriott hotel and we’ve got homeless right up in walking distance,” Bird said.

City Spokesperson Devin Sanchez said city police don’t arrest homeless people, though there are ordinances against littering and loitering, but they try to find them resources to help them.

“It’s already a difficult situation so the last thing you want to do is make it worse for somebody,” Sanchez said. “We have a lot of great resources here in the city at our disposal and try to help them in that way.”

One agency which helps in aiding homeless people is Odessa Links. Their executive director, Erika Thomas, said Odessa has encampments constantly changing across the city, mainly due to the high cost of living and other barriers such as mental health or disabilities.

“It’s definitely something that we as a community have continued to try and tackle, it’s just not enough resources to aggressively make that dent,” Thomas said. “Our bed counts just aren’t enough sometimes.”

There are a few different shelters providing help for the homeless in the city, including Family Promise of Odessa and the Salvation Army. Thomas said Odessa Links’ Project Hope Program can help households with tenant-based rent assistance as well.

“When you have a lot of people transplanting to our area or experience mass layoffs, things like that, it just has a residual effect and impact,” Thomas said. “It’s just a huge combination of either situational homelessness or chronically homeless.”

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